DILLON -- The NAIA football season is less than one week away – the first game kicks off next Saturday between Webber International (Fla.) and No. 10 Reinhardt (Ga.) – but the majority of Frontier Conference teams won’t see action until Sept. 7.
That includes Montana Western, which brings a young, but energetic roster into the fall. Head coach Ryan Nourse boasts upperclassmen on the offensive line and at the linebacker and defensive back positions, with leaders like Jason Ferris and Jed Heffernan set to pave the way. But the biggest factor for those returners is motivation, after Western dropped its final three games of 2018.
“I think the thing that drives most of the guys this year is the finish. We finished poorly. We didn’t have the mental toughness to finish that was necessary, so the reality for us is to be mentally tougher than what we’ve been, to be able to fight through and to be able to finish all the things that we do, doing it full speed and the right way," said Nourse.
Despite the young roster, Nourse and the staff hold high expectations of the Bulldogs, particularly in that mental aspect of the game. Nourse says getting players prepared mentally should eliminate lapses, especially during the most crucial stretch of the season.
"It really is just a mental issue. A lot of it is through experience and then training. It’s usually the most experienced team that pulls it out at the end, and the most experienced team is usually the most mentally tough," he said. "We have a lot of guys coming back now, so we want to make that jump and see if we can’t turn that negative from last year and turn it into a positive this year.”
Montana Western hosts Carroll College on Saturday, Sept. 7 in both team's season-opening game of 2019.